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Genelle Chaconas remembers the first time she read poetry in public quite vividly. It was a few years ago at Luna’s Poetry Unplugged open mic.
“I was shaking head to foot,” she said. “A fire truck blared past, three lines into my poem, and someone from the crowd shouted, ‘Start over!’ I thought I was going to just disappear.”
After a timid finish, the audience erupted in rowdy applause. Chaconas decided to speak with the host, longtime Sacramento poet B.L. Kennedy.
“That’s how I got to know B.L. Nobody else knows more about what’s going on artistically in Sacramento,” she said.
Three years later, Chaconas is organizing her own reading at Beatnik Studios. Along with Charlene Ungstad, Kennedy will be the featured poet at the inaugural event.
The reading, called Red Night Poetry, was inspired by William S. Burroughs’ book “Cities of the Red Night.” The title suits the gallery space since Burroughs was a famed “Beat” poet.
Chaconas brings a more serious approach to her poetry readings.
“We need to foster an environment of acceptance and fun loving freedom,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean no standards of rigor will exist. What I hope to bring forwards is a reiteration that poetry needs to be respected as the powerful tool it is.”
Asked if poetry is making a comeback, Chaconas replied emphatically.
“Poetry doesn’t need a comeback as it is something inside and outside of ourselves that must always exist,” she said. “What does need to happen is a new realization that poetry deserves respect, that to respect art is to truly respect the self.”
In addition to featured poets, there will be an open mic with a five-minute limit per reader. The event will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. with a $3 cover. Beatnik Studios is at 2421 17th St.
Genelle Chaconas at a poetry reading. Courtesy of Chaconas.